The day after a group of firefighters sued Houston’s mayor and a city council member, a district court judge issued a ruling in favor of the group.

On Monday, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association filed a lawsuit against Mayor Sylvester Turner and Council Member Dave Martin alleging that a recent budget and fiscal affairs committee meeting, which Martin chairs, was used for political purposes.

Today, Judge Kyle Carter issued a temporary restraining order against Turner and Martin, saying that the firefighters “will be irreparably injured” if the city continues “to utilize taxpayer funded City of Houston resources to oppose Plaintiff’s Charter Measure,” and requiring the public video of the meeting to be taken down.

In response to the ruling, HPFFA President Marty Lancton said, “Houston firefighters are grateful that the court ruled that even the City of Houston must follow the law and Texas Election Code. Firefighters and tens of thousands of Houston voters played by the rules. Now the city must do so too.”

The firefighters alleged that last week’s meeting was used as part of a political campaign against the firefighters because Martin lined up a series of speakers and presenters to lay out reasons that the measure should fail.

“Defendants Turner and Martin directly advocated against the measure…while utilizing public resources, specifically City personnel, the City Council chambers, and broadcasting their views on the City-run television station, HTV. These communications have subsequently been posted on the Houston television website. By definition, this constitutes use of public resources for political advertising.”

The mayor’s press secretary released the following statement in response:

“I believe the Judge erred in his ruling that the City cannot make available the hearing of the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee because some council members said they were against or for the firefighters’ union referendum which would cost the City at a minimum $300M over 3 years. That is the equivalent of a 25% pay raise for firefighters which the City cannot afford. The public has a right to listen to the public hearing and we will vigorously challenge the Judge’s ruling. The Mayor offered the FFs a 9.5% pay raise and they refused it.”

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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